That was a helluva speech Liz Warren gave. It’s unfortunate it had to be today, though, and not tomorrow, because I would have loved to have seen Bernie Sanders’ speech at RFK stadium. He was a couple minutes into it, subdued, almost pensive, like an immense weight was upon him. Where was he going with this? How would the crowd respond? I was transfixed. Suddenly it’s a split screen, and Liz Warren came walking out onto a stage, beaming. Bernie, exhausted, was speaking but you couldn’t help but be distracted by the electricity in Elizabeth Warren’s stride. Bernie was telling the crowd that his campaign is doing something different. It is telling the truth, he says, as he has said a thousand times–when the audio switches without warning to Liz Warren and Bernie is cut off mid-sentence. We hear Liz Warren launch into one of the greatest speeches in our modern political history. It was that good. Bernie’s stump speech was forgotten. None of the talking heads even mentioned he had been speaking. They were all about Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It’s like Bernie was never even there. Bernie Sanders, the man who had upended American politics, who had dominated every Democratic conversation. Bernie Sanders, who is all anyone could talk about yesterday. Bernie Sanders, who held the fate of the nation in his hands. But through the magic of live television it seemed like Warren’s star had risen, instantly, and Bernie’s had waned, just as instantly. Was it intended that way? Who knows. But it did make for exciting television. Will it have an electrifying effect on Bernie voters? No doubt, especially the under thirty young women who had been so loyal to Bernie Sanders and not so crazy about Hillary Clinton. Elizabeth Warren had changed the political demographics instantaneously. Liz will definitely win over the Millennial women for Hillary, a young under thirty journalist said, if not the Bernie Bros. Bernie Bros. She rolled her eyes saying it, as if ill mannered, foul mouthed Bernie Bros were suddenly a relic of an older, more primitive time. Angry young men with no respect for women in a women’s world.
But this was not the way this should be happening. I’d been waiting for hours for Bernie’s speech. It was supposed to be a major speech. All the news networks were waiting for it. It was to be broadcast in its entirety. This was to be one of the most significant speeches by the single most significant politician of 2016. “How Bernie Sanders’s day in Washington got eclipsed by Democratic unity” said the headline in the Washington Post. It had all happened so fast. If only somebody could have worked the timing out, coordinated the two events, but perhaps they just were determined to have Elizabeth Warren scorch Donald Trump before she endorsed Hillary this afternoon. And scorch him she did, beautifully, rehearsed to perfection, leaving a pile of cinders where once a big loutish billionaire had been.
There was a lot of stagecraft today, that was obvious, the Obama White House and Hillary Clinton campaign and Elizabeth Warren’s every move choreographed to perfection, without a wasted motion. Smooth and perfect. Political tai chi. Meanwhile Bernie, good honest Bernie, truthful Bernie, crusading Bernie, is left looking like William Jennings Bryan in Inherit the Wind, somehow immediately dated, a relic from an earlier time when he left crowds spellbound and chanting his name. Bernie’s speech today seemed divorced from reality, said the usually sympathetic Huffington Post, scolding him for pretending his campaign was not over. But you had to scroll way down to find that story, it was buried far beneath Elizabeth’s Warren’s enormous photo and name in huge red letters. Scroll down past Marco Rubio’s picture, and a bit further on, between an article on mosquitos and an article on a hit and run driver, was Bernie’s small picture and smaller font, an afterthought. “It would be extraordinary if the people of Washington, our nation’s capital, stood up and told the world that they are ready to lead this country into a political revolution” Bernie told the smallish crowd, just a fraction of the turnout he’d gotten in Los Angeles only days before. But Tuesday’s Washington D.C. primary, would be the last stop in the political revolution, and he will lose it like he lost the South, by a huge margin. Bernie knew that. He had told President Obama just that morning he understood the math. But he was putting on the show for the true believers spread out on the lawn before him. They cheered, they swooned, they knew the catechism by heart. Stay in the race, they chanted. Some said they’d write in Bernie Sanders on the ballot come November. He smiled wanly. It’d been scarcely forty eight hours since the California primary, but that seemed like another time.